Suzanne had been at the height of her career when she met her ex-husband, Mark. She felt like she had finally made it. She was loved by many and had financial security. On the other hand, Mark had just retired from a lucrative finance job.
When they met, Mark was charming and overly courteous. He seemed kind and gentle. When they went on dates, everyone knew Mark. He was given the best tables and seats. Mark was the most romantic man that she had ever met. Suzanne felt swept off her feet and fell head over heels.
After six months of dating, they got married. The first few days of marriage seemed magical. However, from there, things slowly headed downwards. Mark would often yell and intimidate Suzanne if she had not made dinner or done the dishes. Suzanne was still working full time and would often work into the evening. When she came home, Mark demanded her full attention.
He would often devalue her by telling her she was a terrible wife. He would insult her with backhanded compliments and speak negatively about her when they were in public with others. After a while, Suzanne started to feel depressed. She began to believe all the insults that Mark would say to her. Suzanne began to lose her confidence, and her career began to suffer. She no longer spent time with her friends and family because Mark did not like them. She felt isolated.
Mark would put her down for anything he could. He began drinking more and staying out until five or six am every morning. Suzanne wondered if he was cheating on her. Mark started to ignore her increasingly. Her self-worth fell even more. She began to wonder how anyone could love her.
One Friday night, Suzanne came home to an empty house. Mark had moved out and had taken half of her things with him. He even took her bed. Suzanne thought that she was going to have a nervous breakdown. She tried contacting him, but he would not pick up. She felt empty and lost.
Suzanne had been in an emotionally abusive relationship that left her feeling discarded, empty, and worthless. Mark had targeted her as a love interest because he thought it would make him look good to be with someone so successful and beautiful. After they were married, Mark felt threatened that Suzanne would leave him. He started to devalue her so that she would feel like she was nothing without him. When Mark realised that Suzanne was harder to control than he thought she would be, he tried to replace her with someone else. When his new relationship was secure enough, he discarded Suzanne.
Emotionally abusive relationships can take longer to heal from. I often hear people say, “I am just so mad at myself that I did not see it earlier or leave earlier.” It can be challenging to see the abuse when you are stuck in it. You might feel like you deserve the abuse, you will not find anyone else, or you do not even realise you are being abused.
Here are a few pointers to rebuilding yourself after a hurtful relationship:
- Do something kind for yourself every day. Doing something kind for yourself every day could be as simple as being available for yourself, going for a walk, listening to music, playing sports, or working on a hobby. Being known for what you want to do daily reminds you that you matter.
- Work on boundaries, not walls: It is easy to feel like you can never trust again after being hurt. It might take some time for you to be comfortable letting another person in. Working on boundaries is an excellent place to begin. When you are satisfied with boundaries, you can trust that your boundaries will keep you safe. Safe people will also respect your boundaries.
- Address any shame that you might be feeling: It is easy to believe untruths that the emotionally abusive person might have said about you. Control tactics can leave us feeling powerless and hopeless. Shame is the belief that you are a bad, dirty, broken person. The truth is that you have worth.
- Work on your self-worth: You have worth. The abuse is not your fault. If you are struggling with self-worth, a professional can help build you back up. Brainspotting uses your eyes to rewire the negative neural pathways that have developed over time.
- Lean into the compliments and warmth: If you believe you are not worth much, it might be challenging to take in compliments. Kind words might not fit your own confirmation bias against yourself. If someone is being kind, take it in, soak it up.
- Rebuild yourself and your identity: It can be challenging to figure out who you are and what you need after you have been devalued. It could be even more challenging if you grew up in an environment where your needs were not valued. What are your hobbies? What makes you feel like yourself? Who helps you to feel safe? What classes did you enjoy in school?
Suppose you are struggling after an abusive relationship. In that case, a professional can help you find your worth, help you heal and enable you to rebuild.
If you feel like you need to talk to someone, then please do contact me to set up an online session via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology, I am not a licensed psychologist or any other type of licensed therapist in the United States. The information I am providing here is educational and informational. This social media page does not provide professional advice, nor does it create a professional-client relationship or any other type of relationship between us. You should always consult your own licensed mental health professional before making any changes regarding your mental health. My goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower you regarding your mental health journey. Always consult your licensed mental healthcare provider(s) and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information posted on this page or post.